Team Recommends 16 Improvements to Cook Inlet Safety


     The Cook Inlet Risk Assessment Advisory Team has produced a list of action items that they say would mitigate the possibility of an oil-related accident in the inlet.

     The Cook Inlet Risk Assessment project began in 2011 as a cooperative effort between the Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

     Tim Robertson is general manager of Nuka Research and Planning in Seldovia. His company helped facilitate the risk assessment team. The team represents stakeholder interests around Cook Inlet, including fisheries, land managers and the oil and gas industry, and has met a handful of times over the last two years.

     The group has already produced reports on vessel traffic in Cook Inlet, potential oil-related accidents that could happen and what the possible consequences of an accident might be.

     "Having conducted all three of those studies, the advisory panel is ... using their own expert judgement to develop recommendations for risk reduction measures that might be applied to Cook Inlet vessel traffic," said Robertson.

     The risk assessment team released its findings Wednesday following a meeting in Anchorage last week. It recommends 16 different actions to help mitigate accident risks in Cook Inlet.

     Eight of them are recommended for immediate implementation, including improving crew training, seeking improvements in spill response equipment and improving cell phone coverage on marine waters in Cook Inlet.

     Robertson says many of the action items are simply calling for continuation of existing programs, like crew training.

     The second category of recommendations is called “merits further consideration” and includes ideas or projects that the risk assessment team feels may be worthwhile but need more research to prove their feasibility.

     A proposed undersea pipeline from the Drift River Terminal at the base of Redoubt Volcano across the Inlet to Nikiski falls in this category, according to the team. 

     Robertson says the pipeline idea has merit because it would cut down on the risk posed by oil tanker traffic.

     "If you reduce that traffic ... you then reduce the risk of spills from that oil," said Robertson. "The question is, 'what would be the cost benefit of that?'"

     Other ideas – like satellite tracking of vessels and removal of out-of-service oil platforms – were excluded from the list of recommendations for various reasons, says Robertson.

     He says the work of the risk assessment advisory panel is not yet done. He says the team will be taking a closer look at how the actions in the “merits further evaluation” group would be implemented and how much they might cost.